Contractor Advice

[Editor’s Note:  at least in the Twin Cities, it’s been two years since homeowners have had to worry about ice dams.  But, thanks to the 16″ that fell earlier this month and subsequent mild temps, ice dams are once again a concern.  So, as a public service, I’m re-running this post that originally ran almost exactly two years ago.]

Barely two hours after my previous post on ice dams, I received a very informative email from Barak Steenlage, an up-and-coming Twin Cities general contractor (and generally good guy).

Here’s what Barak’s advises:

If you have ice dams on your roof, the first thing you need to do to avoid water leaks is get all the snow and ice off your roof immediately.

Once the ice dam is off your roof, you have a couple of different options to help prevent them from reforming.

One popular solution is to install warm wire cables along the edge of the roof and in your gutters. You can buy these warm wires at your local hardware store or Home Depot. If you are handy and you have the time you can install them yourself, just be sure to follow all the warnings and instructions.

To prevent the conditions which allow ice dams to form in the first place, can be a little more complicated and you may need a professional to look at your house and attic to determine the proper solution.

In general ice dams usually form from a lack of proper attic venting, sealing, and insulation. This can be corrected by clearing out the snow which can be covering up your roof ventilation vents in some cases or you may need to add more insulation and venting.

Below are a couple pictures along with a link from the U of M where you can read more information on how they are formed and how to prevent them. But in general when you do not have proper ventilation and/or and insulation your roof over your heated parts of your house become too warm which melts the snow on the main part of the roof.

Then, once the water runs to the edge of the roof eve which isn’t as warm, the water refreezes. The process continues until there is enough ice and water and it is forced back under your shingles or siding and into your attic, soffit, or wall.

If you need more help than just this email, you can contact Barak at:

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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